Highlights Of The Hanuman Festival 2019
Cover Photo By Beaton Photography
By Ashley Shires
The Hanuman Festival 2019 has wrapped in Boulder, Colorado, but the light shines onward; I left so inspired by the teachers, musicians, and changemakers who collaborated on such a transformative event. For me, the festival began with an immersion by Govind Das and Radha of Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica, under a huge tent by Boulder Creek. A sea of colorful mats brightened the grass, but the immersion felt intimate, connected. Govind Das and Radha sat on a low stage, flanked by musicians.
Govind Das began with a discussion about yoga philosophy, setting the spiritual tone for the weekend. He described jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom, reminding us that our true self is not the external aspects of our life. The jnana yogis, he said, practice a meditation that consists of repeating the Sanskrit word neti-neti: “not this, not this.” As an example, Govind Das said: “I am not my bank account.” Some more examples were: “I am not my children. I am not my partner. I am not my body.” Jnana yoga, he said, is the search for discovery, a search for that which is eternal -- not temporary, changing. “Don’t believe your thoughts,” he continued. “They come and go. Emotions come and go. We want to discover the Soul, the Self.”
In discussing karma yoga, the yoga of action, he shared a quote from Gandhi: “The greatest way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.” Gandhi's philosophy seamlessly shifted the discussion to bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. Govind Das narrated the Hindu myth of the monkey god taking the leap of faith, stepping over the ocean from India to the island of Lanka in order to save Sita from an evil demon and return her to her true love Ram.
The big-hearted love of Hanuman and his act of devotion infused the immersion and set the tone for the entire festival. On Friday morning, Gina Caputo taught a class called We could be the Healing: Yogis as Change Agents. She spoke about the yoga tenet of ahimsa, nonviolence, and asked us to notice our negative self-talk. She asked the question: “How can we be more kind and more compassionate to ourselves” Her vinyasa yoga flow practice was creative and playful, featuring one of her famous themed playlists, this time focusing on love: Bob Marley’s One Heart, One Love, Jack Johnson’s Two Hands, and Michael Franti’s The Flower (which intones: we can be the healing; we can be the flower in the gun). She ended the class with a powerful closing meditation, inhaling with the mantra “I activate” and exhaling with the mantra “Change.” I left the class feeling so grateful and inspired.
And then, there was Saul David Raye with his healing, meditative movement, and transformative chanting/music. He was accompanied by the brilliant musicians Jim Beckwith, and Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. Also, in his final class on Sunday, Girish made an appearance on the stage as well, singing We Shine Like Diamonds in the Sun. As we moved with the music, Saul explained that stress is part of the matrix. It is not going anywhere, but we can manage it better. He asked, “Where are you working too hard in your life? Are you being good to yourself?” He asked us to repeat mantras as we moved through the yoga and breathing exercises: “I am strong but relaxed. I am power. I am love. I am truth. I am here at this specific time for a reason.”
It was a magical and inspiring festival, an alchemy of higher teachings, meditative music and movement, all under the blue skies and white clouds of Colorado with a view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Check out the line up Hanuman Festival already has in motion for 2020 here, which will be the 10th anniversary of the event! It will be another collaboration of brilliant teachers, musicians and changemakers encouraging us all to shine on.
To learn more about Hanuman Festival visit: www.hanumanfestival.com.